Why Hand Hygiene is Always “Someone Else’s Problem”

By Chris Hermann

In the fictional town of “Lake Wobegon” from A Prairie Home Companion, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

All joking aside, of course it’s impossible for “all” (or even “most”) of any group to be “above average.” But that’s exactly how healthcare providers see themselves when it comes to hand hygiene.

Last week, we wrote about the survey that we give the clinical staff when our system is being installed in a new hospital. In addition to asking what they think their hand hygiene performance is, we also ask if they think they perform hand hygiene more often than their peers.

Here are the answers, averaged across all of our hospital customers:

We're All Above Average

A full 85% of clinicians believe they have above average hand hygiene – that they outperform their peers. Obviously, the true figure is 50% – half of all providers are above average and half are below.

What’s your hospital’s hand hygiene performance rate? The average is 40%[1]. How many clinicians think their hand hygiene rate is below average, or under 40%? Almost none – the vast majority think they’re over 80%.

Without individual accountability, healthcare workers can always blame someone else. They honestly don’t believe they’re the problem – they think it’s their peers.

Since, by definition, half the providers will always be above average and half below it, the goal should be to move the average hand hygiene performance rate higher. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” so to speak. The best way to do this is to remind clinicians to clean their hands in the moment when they forget. To ensure that everyone’s accountable.

(You might also be interested in our related post: They Think They’re Cleaning Their Hands…They’re Wrong.)

If you’d like to explore how our system typically doubles hand hygiene performance rates…and has reduced HAIs by between 45% and 81% in 100% of customers following our process for 6 months…download our whitepaper to discover the process. Or here’s a brief video about how the system works.

[1] Erasmus V, Daha TJ, Brug H, Richardus JH, Behrendt MD, Vos MC, et. al. Systematic review of studies on compliance with hand hygiene guidelines in hospital care. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2010; 31:283-94.

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